When asked about potentially competing in the Summer Olympics one day, pole vaulter Alon Rogow doesn’t dismiss the question with the classic sports cliche of “taking it one day at a time.” Rather, the Dunwoody senior unhesitatingly responds in the affirmative. “Absolutely. It’s something I look forward to trying to achieve. It’s the main goal.”
It’s hard to blame him for having such a lofty goal.
Earlier this month, Rogow, who will soon compete for the University of Georgia track and field team, ranked number one in the country by virtue of posting a 16’ 7.5” vault, a stunning feat that put him at fifth all-time in the state. (Rogow maintained his number one ranking for a week before eventually getting knocked off.)
But he’s not done. Before graduating from Dunwoody later this spring, Rogow is determined to break the state high school record and ultimately vault 17’ 6”, an achievement that would position him to clear 19’ next year in Athens, Greece.
“I don’t want to say that it [pole vaulting] is the only thing I do and it’s my life, but it kind of is,” says Rogow. “Pole vaulting is something that defines me now.”
That wasn’t always the case. Growing up in the Atlanta suburbs, Rogow played soccer more than anything else, while also dabbling in rock climbing, a rather unconventional, high-risk sport that sparked his interest in similar athletic pursuits.
But it wasn’t until his eighth-grade social studies teacher at Davis Academy, Matthew Barry, introduced him to the Olympic sport of pole vaulting that Rogow started getting interested. (Barry, who moonlights as a coach at Pole Vault Atlanta, previously worked with Rogow’s older brother’s best friend.)
It didn’t take long for him to become obsessed. By the time Rogow graduated from Davis Academy, he was committed to pole vaulting full-time and soon emerged as a standout performer on the Dunwoody varsity team. As a freshman, in his very first high school meet, Rogow broke the school record. By season’s end, he was already finishing sixth at state, while looking up at five pole vaulters who were soon-to-be graduating seniors.
Of course, sophomore year was disrupted due to COVID (he would have participated in the New Balance Nationals meet had there been one) but before the season was called off, he still broke several personal records en route to the 15’ milestone.
But, as he transitioned to becoming an upperclassman, Rogow experienced his first major setback as a pole vaulter — and it had nothing to do with the pandemic forcing him to practice alone for several long, hot months.
During a fall 2020 practice, at the onset of his junior season, Rogow broke a pole, which sliced open his left hand, forcing him to get 10 stitches. After an eight-week hiatus, he returned in prime form, racking up PRs and feeling like himself again.
He soon broke another pole and, while the mishap didn’t cause any serious bodily harm, it did mess with his psyche.
“The whole entire junior season for high school, I was just struggling with the mental side of pole vaulting,” admits Rogow. “That was the biggest struggle of my life. I was doing something I love and I was really struggling to do well. There were periods of time where it was hard to truly love the sport. In the back of my head, I was worrying that I would break a pole again.”
Such doubts were dispelled when Rogow cleared 16’ heading into his senior year, en route to competing in such prestigious meets as the Texas EXPO Explosion (where he finished third overall) and New York’s Millrose Games this past winter.
At this hour, with the Georgia state high school record in reach and SEC competition awaiting, the Olympics is no longer a pipe dream. While the U.S. team is particularly hard to crack, there is always the possibility of establishing citizenship and representing Israel.
That outcome, says Rogow, who has visited Israel twice already, would be “a dream come true.”